If you find yourself in Times Square between now and June, look up. You may catch a glimpse of the First Amendment — in Spanish, English, and Arabic.
The ad on the Reuters Digital Tower at 3 Times Square is part of an ACLU campaign to raise awareness about First Amendment rights and remind people that the Constitution is for all of us, no matter who you are or what language you speak.
In addition to the Times Square billboard, the ads were unveiled at 30 bus shelters across Washington, D.C. The First Amendment in all three languages is also displayed on a fence in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and will appear on a wall in the arts district of downtown Los Angeles.
Additional ads may appear in other cities and in other languages in the coming days and weeks.
The idea for the campaign came about shortly after Donald Trump was elected president on a wave of anti-immigrant hysteria and a pledge to ban Muslims from entering the United States. It was conceived of by the agency Emergence Creative, which approached the ACLU with the idea in December 2016.
In addition to protecting freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to peaceably protest, the First Amendment protects the right to practice your religion and not be discriminated against for doing so.
Because so much of the ACLU’s work involves protecting First Amendment rights, and because we now have a president that openly disdains such freedoms, it seemed like a good time to point out the “We the People” means everyone.
Several advertising vendors refused to run the campaign. Representatives who handle advertising space for New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority and Washington’s Metropolitan Area Transit Authority declined, saying they did “not accept issue oriented advertising.” However, the vendors who did offer space did so at a substantial discount in part because they wanted to support the effort.
The First Amendment ads will run in Times Square through June, appearing twice an hour for 15 seconds on the electronic billboard at Reuters Digital Tower, 3 Times Square. The ads in Washington will appear on 30 bus shelters across the city for four weeks.
Any advertisers who would like to donate space should contact the ACLU.